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Are You Entitled to a Black Woman’s Body?

Entitled: believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment

As I sit here in Washington DC for the Black Reproductive Justice Summit (#BlackRJSummit17), I’ve realized a lot of things when it comes to Black women’s bodies and it’s reflective of the things that I’ve seen in my past. Listening to other Black women talk about their experiences as a non-person or an object is extremely disheartening. Black women have been objectified in the past, and continue to be objectified in the present.

Jamia Wilson, the Executive Director of the Feminist Press, told her story about going to the Women’s March in January and this white woman literally putting her hands on her shoulders, lifting herself, and using Jamia as an object. She dehumanized Jamia. This white woman felt entitled to Jamia’s body and treated her as if she didn’t exist; merely a prop for her to use at any time that she wanted.

When I was young and in college, I remember that every time that I went into the club or a bar or a busy place, my ass would always get grabbed. No consent. Just anonymous ass grabbers passing by me and feeling like they had access to my body. What makes people think that they should be entitled to a Black woman’s body at any given point in time? What makes you feel entitled to another Black woman’s body? Why did I normalize this behavior?

I’m not exempt. I have felt entitled to another Black woman’s body every time I touch them and don’t get consent (I’m a very touchy-feely affectionate person naturally by default). So what makes me feel entitled? My shared identities with other Black woman makes me feel entitled. A Black woman who encroaches on my personal space makes me feel entitled to her body. If a Black woman is a lover or a partner, I feel entitled to her body. What’s even more interesting is that I feel other Black women are entitled to my body based on these exact things. Logically, I know I shouldn’t be entitled to anyone’s body, but I have internalized this entitlement as something “natural” because of my socialization. What’s wrong is that the agency is lost in this situation and that’s problematic.

So what does this have to do with sex?

Well, in the research conducted for In Our Own Voice National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, I learned that there is a high percentage of women, particularly Black mothers with young (under 18) children, who were pressured to have sex when they didn’t want to in all these different circumstances.

This is where entitlement comes into play. Other people feeling like they are entitled to our bodies, wanting sex when someone else wants it, and not just vaginal penetrative sex, but oral and anal sex, sex without condoms and sex without consent. This isn’t healthy. This is stressful. It’s stressful to think that someone else will be entitled to our bodies at some given point in time.

To ensure that Black women can feel empowered with their bodies, as a Black woman, there are things that you can do to ensure your sexual health when it comes to others wanting access to your body:

  • Understand your feelings. Think about your own sexual desires, why you want or don’t want to have sex, and be grounded in your sexual decision. It will help to take a few deep breaths and having self-awareness about your attitudes and how you’re feeling about the situation.

  • Stand your ground. A lot of times we don’t want to rock the boat and get others upset, but if you don’t feel like having sex, because of emotional, physical, or financial stress, then continually express yourself and communicate that you don’t want to have sex. Some folks might want a reason. It is up to you whether or not you want to provide one, but you should not feel obligated to give one if you don’t want to do it. Invoke your agency and let them know that pressuring you will not sway you otherwise.

  • Prepare for the consequences. They might get upset. They might retaliate. They may leave the situation or you. They may bring it up in future conversations or complain about how you don’t “give it up” for them. They may force themselves on you. If they force themselves on you, immediately call the cops, get support from someone you trust, and seek therapy or counseling to help you with the trauma.

  • Take care of yourself. As Black women, we tend to try to take care of other folks before we take care of ourselves. What do you do for self-care? What have you done for yourself lately? How do you manage your day-to-day health? How do you alleviate the stress in your life? What do you value about yourself? What makes you happy?

Remember, our desires are important. We are worthy to have our bodies respected, as we define respect for ourselves and not for anyone else. People are not entitled to our bodies. The choices that we have as women are important and the privilege and access to our bodies should be given out by us and us only.

My hope for those who are not Black women, is to take heed to this and think about this perspective as valid, important, and necessary for every single Black woman. Recognize the resistance, recognize the resilience, and most of all, recognize the love that we have for ourselves and others.

Cheers to your sexual success!

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